Jul 15, 2020

Civic education at schools - how is it going?

The Civic Engagement Program of the Associação Politiquê? started in January 2020, with the goal of offering a civic education program for young students by promoting democratic experiences within the educational institutions of the city of Araripina, in the Northeast of Brazil. Due to the closing of schools and the pandemic, we had to rethink how we could best fulfill our commitment to the community while keeping everyone safe and healthy. 

Brazil has been hit hard by COVID-19, both in the tragic loss of lives and public health chaos as well as the political and economic uncertainty accelerated by the pandemic. Our original mission was to place the students as the protagonists of social change, investing in their personal growth and in the development of fundamental skills, both related to citizen practice and academic and professional practices. This includes critical and scientific thinking, empathy, respect for divergence of opinions and empowerment as an agent of transformation of its community and social reality - skills that are even more relevant now in a time of crisis. 

After extensive conversations and consultations with the local community, we have reformated our program to focus on two main strategies:

  • Mobilize the school community in engagement actions and encourage a culture of participation as a strategy to combat the coronavirus. We are doing this through the creation and scaling of online communities with schools from the state and municipal networks that joined the program, for the dissemination of citizenship and political content. This is a safe space where students can discuss what they are going through and how they could support each other right now. They were also invited, alongside the wider student population of the city, to join a digital version of our program 'Desenvolva!', in which the students get together in groups and will design and implement a solution to a problem in their community.

  • Delivery of educational content on citizenship and democratic experiences to public schools in the municipality that joined the Program. This includes videos, webinars, print, and digital manuals on our methodologies of debate clubs, student governments and political education. As we cannot run in-person workshops as we had originally planned, we are producing a digital set of complementary materials to help educators and school managers to implement the programs once the schools reopen. 

We have also scaled down our objectives for the program, as the school community of Araripina is quite overwhelmed with all the current changes and we wish to support them, not add any extra requests. Our focus now is working directly with the students and producing a wide set of materials to support educators once things are more stable.

So far, the response has been incredibly positive. We have students from nearly every school in the city as part of our programs - and they are just getting started!

Mar 18, 2020

Kicking off our civic skills training in the Brazilian outback

In December 2019, Politiquê? was one of the five organizations awarded by the Votorantim Institute and Votorantim Energia to develop the Lab Cidadania (Citizenship Lab) in Araripina, in the Sertão (backwoods) of the Pernambuco state, in Brazil. The goal of the Citizenship Lab is to foster a stronger democratic and civic culture in small cities and measure its impact in the upcoming municipal elections held in October 2020. The location choice is particularly challenging, as it is an extremely remote and underpriviliged area of Brazil, with 1 in 4 adults being illiterate and very longstanding political alliances. 

Our civic engagement program in Araripina is anchored in four interventions: 

  • Creation of debate clubs in public high schools;
  • Upskilling the student government bodies;
  • Training middle and high schools teachers on best practices for teaching civic and government lessons in the classroom; 
  • A city-wide challenge to develop student-driven solutions to improve democratic culture. 

These initiatives will be rolled out throughout the year, always in close partnership with educators, students, school administrators and education government officials, 

With the invaluable support given by our GlobalGiving donors, we have spent the first few months of the years in intensive planning and consultation with the local community, including stakeholders from the local education authorities and consultants hired by Votorantim Institute to prepare a community needs assessment. 

We have been overwhelmed with incredibly positive support from the community - they even invited us to present our project in the city radio! We have met with all school principals in the disctrict and nearly 100% of the schools have joined. 

Our next steps are running an ideation workshop with the school teachers (to get their feedback on the program methodology and implementation structure) and hosting the first training session on the debate clubs methodology.

As schools have been temporarily shut down due to COVID-19 prevention, we are exploring the possibilities of remote training and updating our project calendar. We believe that the current health precautions are an excellent example of the power of civic skills to make our lives better!

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